Oscars’ Report Card: “I have two words to say: Inclusion Rider.”
While the Oscar ceremony is done and dusted with, the jury is still out writing the report card on how fairly it addressed women empowerment. Some thought the Oscars managed to sail in the direction of change however many believed there is a lot of scope for improvement. But a fair number felt all the talk on women empowerment was a tad too much.
From a montage on Time’s Up, to Frances McDormand’s powerful acceptance speech, and Emma Stone’s transparent introduction for the Best Director Category, there were many thought-provoking moments during the award function.
Their biggest achievement, however, was to make sure that Weinstein controversy was not overplayed. The conversation was instead about empowering and recognising the contribution of women to Hollywood. But many people felt feminists were robbing deserving men of credit and appreciation.
Case in point was the strong reaction to Emma Stone’s introduction of Best Director category. Stone said, “These four men and Greta Gerwig created their own masterpieces this year…”. What felt like an improvised version of Natalie Portman’s “All male nominees” comment at Golden Globes, it did invite similar reactions.
Emma Stone did not intend to belittle the efforts or skill of other directors. Nor was it a standoff between men and women in the industry. It was an attempt to celebrate a mere 5th nomination of a female director in all of ninety years of the Oscar history.
Every marginalised group has to struggle to make its achievements count. After #OscarsSoWhite a few years back, just see how nominations and winners list has changed over the last couple of years. The Hispanic representation in Hollywood is also voicing its concern over how industry fails to acknowledge their contribution to cinema. Then why is everyone branding Stone’s comment as “white feminism”?
If a representative from another marginalised community in Hollywood had made a similar comment on stage, would people have been as unforgiving? Why does feminism tire out people so early?
It’s simply because it is easier to make changes in broader strokes. But what feminism demands is fine tuning of behaviour across the spectrum.
Oscars were neither here, nor there
For me it lost its sheen when they gave an Oscar to Kobe Bryant- a man who faced charges of sexual assault. It thus lacked self-awareness of all that it allegedly represented.
#MeToo calls for a more conscious effort while sorting nominations and selecting winners, and this is where the Oscars have gone wrong always. It’s all about making a big show about causes like inclusion and celebration of cinema. The PR and sharp headlines around the event make it sound like a rebellion which threatens to revolutionise how we view Hollywood. Yet it is the same story every year.
Awards go to men like Casey Affleck and Bryant, and all that we get is a handful of inspiring speeches.
It is important that we see through the show put up in front of us. Those inside and outside the industry should make sure #MeToo is not used to draw battle lines between women and others. The industry needs to stop pretending that everything is changing and prove it with relevant changes in conduct instead. What we must take to heart are McDormand’s words. While accepting the Best Actress award for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, the star said:
“We all have stories to tell and projects we need financed. Don’t talk to us about it at the parties tonight. Invite us into your office in a couple days, or you can come to ours—whichever suits you best—and we’ll tell you all about them. I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider”
Unless Hollywood does so, the Oscars will remain to have an anti-feminist angle, which will stab in the heart of the cause with obvious speeches and zero action.
Frances concluded her speech with the now famous two words “Inclusion Rider.” If you haven’t Googled it yet, the term refers to an equity clause put by the actors in their contracts, which ensures gender and racial diversity in a film’s cast and crew.
All the marginalised groups in Hollywood should form a strong united force. They should ensure that culture of oppression gets booted out of the industry. So while the Oscars have barely managed to pass in the test put out by #MeToo, it remains to be seen how inclusion and feminism manage to create an impact on cinema in the days to come.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.